GSBCA quietly ends reign as protest venue

There was no final information technology protest rush at the General Services
Administration Board of Contract Appeals. Laptops Inc. filed the final protest with the
board six days before GSBCA closed its doors to IT bid protests.

If the case proceeds along a normal course, the protest of a Census Bureau solicitation
for notebook computers as overly restrictive will be the final decision issued by the
board, GSBCA staff said.

GSBCA relinquished its jurisdiction over information technology contract disputes Aug.
8, when the IT Management Reform Act took effect and established the General Accounting
Office as the government's lone IT contracting tribunal.

Laptops Inc. of Falls Church, Va., filed its bid protest Aug. 2. The pre-award
complaint challenged the language Census used in its Laptop Project Agreement solicitation
issued in June.

Would-be federal IT contractors always have had the option of filing protests with GAO.
But during GSBCA's 12-year tenure as a specialty court for IT disputes, it has handled
more than 2,500 cases.

GSBCA chairman Stephen Daniels said the board's biggest contribution has been to raise
the standards of performance for both agencies and vendors on government systems buys.

"Board oversight has brought a greater sense of fairness to the IT procurement
community. I believe our presence led agencies to act more thoughtfully in defining their
requirements and managing their acquisitions," Daniels said.

"We all can take pride in seeing how the protest process has improved to become
more expeditious and less formal while still achieving good results."

As for the particulars of the last contracting challenge, Laptops Inc.'s protest
alleged that the Census solicitation permits bidders to offer obsolete and discontinued
components. Census also has proposed an evaluation factor weighting methodology that
Laptops Inc. called questionable. The solicitation fails to specify how many computers
Census will buy or lease, the protest said.

The board's deadline for rendering a decision is Oct. 7.

The board still will handle protests of GSA acquisitions. And Daniels said he expects
GSBCA to continue as a player in the federal IT community, now that the judges are making
themselves available to mediate or arbitrate contracting disputes that don't go to GAO or
the courts.

Daniels said the Federal Aviation Administration recently chose GSBCA as an alternative
means of resolving a dispute over an IT buy. He said the board can provide alternative
dispute resolution services for any kind of federal contract, not just IT acquisitions.

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